A disaster of my family’s gender-biased education

Aoi Kobayashi
Ochanomizu University

Until recently, I had thought that men have lots of advantages over women, especially from the point of health. Needless to say, men are blessed with more physical strength than women, so they seem to get better chances of careers because of this biological feature. Their careers are not interrupted by childbirth either, and they tend to get higher positions in the future. And I had felt that if I were a boy, I would not have to suffer from symptoms of my chronic illness, chronic thyroiditis, for it is almost unique to women. Although I have inherited this genetic defect from both of my parents, if I were not a girl, the symptoms might not have appeared, or they would be much milder. At least, male patients need not be distressed by menstrual irregularity, unlike female patients, even which seems to be enviable for me. Therefore, I had envied my younger brother, who has no chronic illness at all, and he had been often said to be “a child prodigy” by people around him. He was smarter than me, better at sports than me, and loved by more people than me. Until recently, in consequence, I had thought that men are endowed with much more things than women, and the inequality cannot be remedied, after all.   However, now I am seeing disaster with my own eyes. My younger brother has become an invalid and very depressed, despite great consideration by his parents, teachers, and relatives. Now his facial expression has completely disappeared, and he has hardly come to speak with his family. Besides he wanders around town, sometimes for no purpose, and tortures himself with this coldness. I wondered why an 18-year-old test taker would do such desperate things at first. He had shut himself up in his room, did not take the Center Test seriously, which is essential for going to university in Japan, and went job-hunting without our parents’ permission. He did not study for college even though his grades in high school were better than mine. My father said to me, “Probably, your achievement in entrance examinations puts pressure on him.” But I could not be convinced of that explanation. Rather, I noticed that the male-dominant culture that exists in my family and among my relatives might have driven him into a corner. Maybe, that is the true cause of his agony. As I mentioned above, my brother used to be a talented boy. He was really quick to understand when he studied. He also mastered many kinds of sports, joined in many activities, and played with his friends. And he won several prizes in essay contests; so many people around him always praised him, and had high hopes for him. Yet, there was a big problem in this way. My parents, especially my father, and my relatives often told him, “Only you could have done such great things. Your big sister cannot do the same things, because she is a feeble girl. She will be not so hopeful like you. But all of us support you as you are a child prodigy. You are a boy, so you will accomplish many more things than your sister.” Hence, it was natural that he looked down on me, and I felt hurt by their words. I gradually came not to mind them, however, and decided to do what I needed or wanted. Fortunately, I have been blessed with many good people and companion animals, and now I live a full life. In a sense, this gender-biased education ironically worked well for me. I could live freely up to now, being contrary to my parents and relatives’ expectations. The problem I have to analyze is that the education which my family had given to my brother damaged him terribly in the long run. I had thought that he was made much of and was satisfied with his education. But I was completely wrong. His depression actually started three years ago. At that time, we had just lost our grandparents who had lived with us, and he started to be in the dumps at home. My parents did not worry about him so much then, since he looked fine when he went to high school and he took part in the swimming club’s activity. Now I know that he frantically pretended to be OK.  My family told him, “You have done as good a good job as the last exams”. They kept encouraging him as before. They encouraged him to study harder and take more exercise because he is a boy, which turned out to be completely disastrous. He became more desperate and rebellious, and came to ignore his family. Although they should have been concerned about him, my parents left him alone, for they thought that he was just about to enter a boy’s rebellious phase. And then, his depression became worse little by little. He broke off relations with his family, and finally he has become like a dead person. Indeed, there is no doubt that the death of his grandparents was traumatic for him, but the core of his problem was his gender-biased education and him not getting enough consideration as an individual. Furthermore, I also found that my fixed idea that men are much healthier than women was thoroughly wrong. After my brother’s impulsive behavior was revealed, my mother called his class teacher and had a talk with her about him. At that time, she talked with my mother kindly, which showed an important counterexample to my assumption. She said, “I know that some boys suffer from depression because of their age. The cause may be related to a hormone imbalance in their growth period. Boys tend to be impulsive, and sometimes desperate. Perhaps, he is in such a condition now. I think it is good for you that you give him a rest and watch over him carefully.” After getting this advice, my parents have come to listen to him as much as possible, although he speaks as little as ever. However, I feel that it is a good first step for both of them to cure his mental disorder. And now I understand that boys can also have unique health problems, and they need adequate consideration without any gender bias. Therefore, I have learned two things in this chain of events about my younger brother. The first is that gender-biased education should be remedied for both boys and girls, because it sometimes brings disastrous results. It not only hurts girls’ character and leaves anger in their minds, but also causes distress to boys who may feel cornered. In my final analysis, no one will be happy with such prejudiced and old-fashioned views. Instead, what people need is to communicate with each other with gender-equality, and respect the individual. And they also have to consider those who are distressed about their future and so forth. I know that that may be difficult in today’s busy society, but it is getting more important than ever, and it is crucial especially for young people to be considered. In short, people need to realize gender equality, value individuality, and have adequate consideration or others. And the second thing that I have learned is that people also need to pay attention to their health conditions when necessary. Many people actually have health problems more or less, but they tend to be regarded as personal matters still. In my brother’s case, now I remember, he suffered from a  throat disorder and could not swallow food for some time, yet our parents practically neglected him because they were busy with their work. Consequently, that disorder has not been cured yet, and he has deepened his loneliness. Thus I claim that people should never ignore other’s health problems nor be indifferent to them. That will not only remedy gender bias but also improve people’s lives for sure. I think that once this task dealing with people’s welfare starts to be coped with, the circle of gender equality and health will eventually spread to equal employment and careers opportunity. There is, however, a problem of acceptance which stands in equality’s way. While my mother supported my gender-equal idea when I discussed it with my parents, my father has almost no understanding of it. He said, “The thought can only be realizable by the privileged few. I believe that many people would feel happier if they follow their gender roles, and we need to give up our dreams to some extent when we face harsh reality.” He refuted me after listening to my opinion and said, “I admit that you are much smarter and more talented than I had thought, but it is because of your innate ability. Although your younger brother is not in good condition to study, I know that he has other talents such as swimming. He is different from you since he is a boy”. It is unfortunate that my father goes into his shell. He is clearly obsessed with his persistent notion gender bias, which shows that he is also a victim of discrimination. I feel that some people are likely to internalize this value unconsciously, and to be wounded all the more by the invisibility. The problem is deep-rooted even now, so its improvement will require time and campaigns by more and more people. Recently, I went to my brother’s room to serve him a meal. “Your lunch is here.” I opened the door and put the basket on a table. He just glanced at me, and soon turned to his desk. I wondered if he really wants to tell something to his family because of his slight glance at me. He is going to see doctors from the psychiatric and pediatrics departments soon, so I hope that the cause of his poor physical condition will become clear, and he can receive good treatment. What I can do for him now is watch over him fondly and support him as much as possible if he should ask my help. I do not have the innate ability my father thinks I have, but I am not a feeble girl either. Now I know that standing up and facing difficulties is the best solution. I stepped out of my brother’s room and closed the door, while looking at his blank profile.